A high-ranking Iraqi security official says authorities are holding a top aide to the purported leader of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and have used a messaging application on his mobile phone to nab four commanders of the militant outfit.
Hisham al-Hashimi, a consultant to the Baghdad government on the anti-Daesh campaign, told Reuters on Thursday that Ismail al-Eithawi, better known by the nom de guerre Abu Zaid al-Iraqi, was captured in Turkey in February by Turkish authorities and handed over to Iraqi agents.
Hashimi added that Iraqi forces used the Telegram messaging app on Eithawi's mobile phone, and managed to tempt a number of Daesh commanders in Syria to cross the border into Iraq, where they were arrested.
Those held include Syrian national Saddam Jamal, who served as the so-called Daesh governor of Syria's eastern Euphrates region.
The other three field commanders were identified as Syrian Mohamed al-Qadeer as well as Omar al-Karbouli and Essam al-Zawbai, who are both of Iraqi descent.
Hashimi described Eithawi as a direct aide to Baghdadi, noting that he was responsible for money transfers to Daesh bank accounts in various countries.
The security advisor to the Iraqi government went on to say that Iraqi intelligence agents, in cooperation with US forces, had managed to uncover bank accounts used by Daesh and decipher secret communication codes Eithawi used.
On April 30, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pledged to continue airstrikes on Daesh positions and headquarters inside neighboring Syria but stressed that Baghdad would not infringe upon the sovereignty of the Damascus government.
“Iraq will continue airstrikes in Syria and will do more to eliminate Daesh group. It will neither allow Daesh militants to come back, nor a similar terrorist organization to appear, but Iraq doesn't mean to interfere in internal affairs of Syria,” Abadi stated.
On December 9, 2017, Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in Iraq.
“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh,” he told a conference in Baghdad then.
On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.
In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.
Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.